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Regional News

Racial covenants removal bill goes to Idaho governor's desk

Racial covenant document
Courtesy of the University of Washington
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The legislation allows homeowners to file "restrictive covenant modification" documents with their deeds and titles.

The Idaho House has approved a bill that empowers property owners to remove racially discriminatory language from their home documents.

“I don’t need to tell you that we used to engage in a nasty little practice called redlining, where we put all the Black and brown folks in one part of town and all the white folks in another. And one of the mechanisms that we created in order to enforce this system were called racially restrictive covenants and, years ago, fortunately, we decided that those were wrong, those were unconstitutional, those were unjust, those were unfair," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Chris Mathias (D-Boise).

Federal laws ban race-based restrictions that were commonly added to deeds and titles in the mid-20th century. The restrictions are no longer legal. But Mathias says homeowners should have the option of removing the offending language.

"Thousands and thousands of homes in Idaho still have these racially restrictive covenants in their deeds and even though they’re no longer enforceable, it shocks the conscience of a moral person to even see that language in there and it raises all kinds of questions that I don’t think we need to get into. We want to make sure we get rid of that language where possible," he said.

The legislation requires county clerks to create forms for homeowners to fill out and file with their home’s documents. There would be no cost to property owners. It’s similar to a bill the Washington legislature approved last year.

Tuesday’s vote in the House was unanimous. The Senate also has unanimously approved this bill. It now goes to the governor’s desk.